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Apr 07, 2017

by April Kiekintveld, Recruitment and Retention Specialist, Bethany Christian Services of Michigan, Holland

Perhaps you or someone you know has a heart for foster care but isn’t ready just yet to become a foster parent. We understand foster parenting isn’t for everyone, but there are many ways to be involved that can make things easier for families that are providing care.

Below are eight ideas you can share to encourage friends and family members to get involved.

Get Your Church Involved

  1. Help church staff create a list of families who are currently providing foster care.
    • Use that list to periodically deliver meals, gift cards, or notes to encourage them and let them know they are not alone.
    • In addition to names and contact information, assemble information like their favorite foods, food aversions/allergies, children’s names and ages, and prayer requests so you can provide support in a personal way.
  2. Hold a gift-card drive once or twice a year, and randomly send them to foster families.
    • These could be gift cards for groceries, household items, or family entertainment. The gift amount can be modest—it’s just an opportunity to send a note and enclose a small gift to let the family know the church is praying for them.
    • Consider gift cards to restaurants that deliver, and enclose a take-out menu if possible.
  3. Organize a children’s clothing drive.
    • Many children come into foster care with only the clothes they are wearing. Collect gently used items such as clothing, sleepers/pajamas, and coats. Collect new socks and underwear in a variety of sizes.
    • Keep a “free closet” at your church for foster families or donate items to a local agency that can immediately distribute these items.
  4. Organize periodic respite nights for foster parents at your church.
    • Respite nights are defined times when foster parents can drop their kids off for a few hours and enjoy some time to themselves.
    • Your church would be responsible for recruiting volunteers for this event. It would be wise to work with a local agency to host an event like this, not only to reach local foster families but to provide trauma training to your volunteers.
    • Your church could also contact other churches in the area who are already doing this and provide volunteers. Your local agency may know about events like these at area churches.

Get Your Family Involved

  1. Volunteer to do child care at foster parent trainings.
    • Most local agencies host trainings for their foster parents where they will also offer child care. Contact your local agency to learn how you can volunteer.
    • Both adults and kids can volunteer to do child care at trainings. Anyone over the age of 18 would need to complete a background check with the agency before participating.
  2. Help with errands or provide transportation for foster families.
    • While foster families have all of the same errands and appointments as other families, they often have additional weekly commitments. These could include parent visits for each child in care, counseling/therapy, tutoring, and more. Perhaps you could save them a trip by driving one child home from school or sports so they can attend an appointment for another child.
    • Call ahead and volunteer to pick up some grocery items while you’re out, and drop them off on your way home.
    • Donate gas station gift cards that your local agency can distribute to foster parents.
  3. Be a friend—to the family and the child in care.
    • Get your kids together for a play date.
    • Invite the family to join you for an ice cream outing.
    • Ask the foster parents how you can pray for them and their child(ren).
    • Check in periodically with a call, email, or text. Let them know you’re thinking about them, and ask if there’s something specific you can do to help.
  4. When you are ready to become a foster parent, children of all ages—especially teens—need your love and support.
    • Find an agency to work with in your area.
    • The licensing process for foster care or foster care adoption is free and will take about fourؘ–six months to complete.
    • Start the process by attending an orientation at your local agency.

 “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something...I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”  Edward Everett Hale


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